Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Quarterlife  

Today's my birthday, although honestly, I've been telling people I'm twenty-five for the past few weeks--it's less awkward that way. I expect it will be rather low key, since I already did the combined birthday/anniversary lunch with my parents a couple of days ago, and won't be celebrating with friends till the weekend. But I like birthdays, and what they signify, and this one seems to be fairly important. I'm now on my own when it comes to dental and extra medical coverage. I can now rent a car (well, once I get fully licensed in the next few months.) And I think this marks the first year where I've basically caught up to my peers.

For the longest time, I've felt that I should be older than I am. A lot of it stems from the age of my parents, who are in their early and mid-sixties, respectively--in other words, decidedly not baby boomers, with a different set of references, experiences, and cultural milestones. They also set the tone with their taste for more intellectual pursuits and more "highbrow" tastes, if you call having 3000+ classical, Broadway musical, comedy and jazz LPs in the living room highbrow. And for whatever reason, I was an early "doer": walked at 9 and a half months, read at 2 and a half, and constantly, constantly observed the people and things around me. When I got to school, I was happy at first, but boredom set in, and I itched to do something about it. However, I would not recommend that children skip fifth grade--talk about moving from the frying pan into the fire, at least from a developmental standpoint.

As I moved through high school to graduation, I was two years younger than everyone else, thanks to the now-disappeared Grade 13 that Ontario high schools had, and which I essentially skipped over by doing five years of high school in four. I was the youngest in my social set in college, and the gap between me and the friends I made widened age-wise, so that now I have friends of all ages--but for the most part, I was still the youngest. Except now I find it's not always so. Granted, if I sit on the bus or subway and hear teens talking, I just "don't get it" most of the time; and I'm struck by how young they looked. I couldn't possibly have looked so young at 14, 16, 18, could I? Then I go back to my old pictures and find it to be the case. What happened? Is my self-perception that skewed that I have no sense of how I looked then and how I look now?

I'm considered to be an adult by the children I know or meet, but to my parents' peers, I'm still "my parents' daughter," at least in this town. Many people keep asking me the usual questions: where I am, what I'm doing, with all the unspoken implications of those probing questions. Girls who were 2, 3, even 4 years behind me in school are getting married, having children. I'm not one to be panicked by what others do, but at the same time, I feel a sense of urgency to get as much as I can accomplished, to make the most of the leisure time I have at my disposal. Eventually my life will settle into a more regular rhythm; when, I can't really say. A few months ago, when I returned home from England, I'expected it would be now. Except it hasn't--or perhaps, this is the pace I was meant to be at for the time being.

So, being twenty-five. The "Quarterlife crisis," as some articles and books are calling it, sounding an alarm for a generation of people who are more educated and more unsettled than their parents ever were. More like the Quarterlife Opportunity, if you ask me. I'm not young, but I'm nowhere near old. I'm still, to some degree, dependent on my parents, but they are starting to be dependent on me as well. I have something to prove, but less of it. And ultimately, whatever possibilities become eventualities, whatever opportunities come my way, whenever they do, I'll embrace them, because I know I can.

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